Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Incredible Human Machine

Imagine a machine that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for more than 70 years, without missing a beat. Wouldn’t that be incredible?

We have such a non-stop machine: It’s called the human heart. Consider these facts:

According to the Mayo Clinic, a normal resting heart rate for an adult is 60 to 100 beats per minute. Choosing an average of 72 beats per minute as the norm, this means a person’s heart beats 4,320 times in one hour, 103,680 times in a 24-hour day. That also means in just one year, a healthy individual’s heart beats nearly 38 million times. Extend that over a 70-year life span (and many of us will live much longer than that) and you have a heart beating approximately 2.7 billion times! And that does not include accelerated heartbeats due to exercise, fear, illness or stress.

I mention these statistics because five years ago today, my heart actually was taking a break for 30-40 minutes, replaced by a heart-lung machine as a cardiothoracic surgeon and his team “fixed my heart.” Overall the procedure lasted about six hours. Four arterial bypass grafts and a rebuilt ascending aorta later, I was “good to go.” Not really – several months of recovery and rehab followed. But thanks to the skills of my surgeon and the excellent post-op care I received, I’m sitting here blogging, having just finished another round of strenuous cardio exercises.

When I volunteer at the hospital where I had my surgery, visiting people who’ve just had similar procedures, I often remind them they’ve been given a gift – the gift of a new day, with even better days ahead. Lying in a hospital bed recovering on Christmas Day 2006, I was disappointed not be home. But I was happy to still be around – and to be with my family.

My conclusion, as I also mention to patients I visit, was after coming through such critical surgery, God wasn’t finished with me (or them) yet. So the question becomes, “Okay, Lord, what do you want me to do now?”

In the Old Testament, God makes an interesting statement: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). As another Christmas nears, that truly is a remarkable gift.

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